The other night I took a break from what I was doing and watched some of the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. At the ceremony those who are inducted are given the opportunity to give a speech. It was interesting and enjoyable to hear what these successful athletes had to say at this significant moment in their life.
During a couple of the speeches it seemed like they were almost ready to sing a hymn and give an altar call. Some of the players gave strong and powerful testimonies about their faith in the Lord. They wanted people to know they didn’t achieve this honor on their own. They gave thanks to God and told about times of struggle and how the Lord Jesus had helped them through the challenges.
A couple of them told about growing up as sons of single moms. They were poor, living in tough, dangerous neighborhoods. Most people would have looked at their situation and said there was no chance they would turn out well. But they had a mom and a grandmother who prayed. That made a world of difference.
They admitted mistakes they had made and told of times when they were headed down the wrong path. They expressed appreciation for how God brought people into their life who helped them get going in a different direction. It was refreshing and encouraging to hear their honesty about things they had done wrong and their humble admission that they needed others.
Brian Dawkins told about a time early in his career when he was struggling with depression and contemplated suicide. He gave thanks to God and people who watched over him, encouraged him and helped him get on a path to healing. He encouraged others who were going through similar struggles to look at his life and find hope that God can help you get through the hard times.
At a Hall of Fame induction ceremony you expect players to talk about how great they were and tell stories about their success. You don’t expect someone to show such transparency and talk about his battle with depression.
We expect a happy face. When we ask someone how they’re doing we expect a quick “Great.” We expect boasting, but in a subtle, humble way of course. We get scared to do like Dawkins did and admit our struggles. We worry about what people might think of us.
I have been blessed that I haven’t struggled with depression like many others have, but I did have a period when sadness was camping out a lot in my life. I don’t know if I would have been considered depressed at the time, but I was pretty down for quite a while. Your pride doesn’t want to admit you’re hurting. You want to be a poster boy for “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). So you try to fake it. I found out I’m not as good at faking it as I thought I was. I’m thankful for good friends who asked, “Something’s wrong. What is it?”
That’s how it ought to be in a congregation and with friends in Christ. We don’t need to fake that we’re fine. We have freedom to ask our friends how they’re doing and share with our friends how we’re really doing. We can do like Paul did with the Thessalonians: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (I Thessalonians 2:8). God’s love enables us to find hope and strength as we share our lives with one another.
I appreciate how Brian Dawkins courageously and humbly shared his life. His speech can be found on YouTube. It’s worth a listen.